FREEPORT – Woodstock looked at its first sectional game in 13 years as an opportunity that slipped away.
The Blue Streaks, beset by foul trouble, fought from behind against Rockford Lutheran and pushed the favored Crusaders to the end.
When Lutheran held on for a 57-46 victory Wednesday at the Class 3A Freeport Sectional, the Streaks celebrated a landmark season, while lamenting what might have been if they had hit a few more shots.
“We got close a couple times, we just kicked ourselves,” senior guard Jordan Turner said. “We had our opportunities and chances and just couldn’t execute. In the first half, we just weren’t hitting anything.”
The Crusaders (25-4) were not that much better, although junior guard Thomas Kopelman scored a game-high 21 points, with 14 in the first half. Lutheran advances to Friday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against the winner of today’s semifinal between Sycamore and St. Francis.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way we fought, we gave them all we had,” said Woodstock coach Alex Baker, whose team finished 19-11 after winning the school’s
first regional since 2000. “We
missed some shots, especially in the first half, that could have made it more advantageous for us.”
Woodstock fell behind, 19-8, in the second quarter, but the Crusaders went cold too. The Streaks came back to make it 21-15 at halftime, then opened the third quarter with Andy Buhrow’s 3-pointer.
Buhrow hit another 3 on the next possession that would have tied the score, but he was called for traveling. Lutheran pushed the lead to 10, but the Streaks cut it to 32-28 late in the third quarter. The Crusaders kept the lead at eight to 10 points for most of the fourth quarter.
“We were doing really well, but we just couldn’t make any shots in the first half,” Buhrow said. “It was a good feeling [hitting the 3], we were getting back in it, but after that they took control.”
Turner finished with 16 points and No. 2 behind Dan Hill on the Steaks’ all-time scoring list with 1,447 points. Sophomore Mason Sutter scored 12 points and junior center Damian Stoneking added 10.
Baker thought Lutheran’s pressure defense had something to do with Woodstock’s shooting percentage.
“They pressured us big-time and by the time you get some open looks, you’ve run around screens and things,” Baker said. “They ran double teams at Jordan all night. Their pressure took away from what we wanted to do.”
Woodstock attacked better in the fourth quarter when Stoneking dished four assists for Sutter underneath. But the Crusaders’ lead was too large.
“It was our defense tonight,” Crusaders coach Tom Guse said. “We had 16 turnovers and shot 9 for 22 from the [free-throw] line. Everything starts with our defensive effort. They do a really good job with their 2-3 zone and we didn’t attack that very well. We played just good enough to win.”
Sophomore center Nate Wieting added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Crusaders.
“The season was spectacular,” said Buhrow, who started on Woodstock’s 5-23 team last season. “It was more than anything I could ever dream of. Winning the sectional would be nice, but you can’t have everything.”